Negotiating communicative imaginaries: Definitional debates and language ideologies in a critical race theory hearing


  • Paige Pinkston University of South Carolina



language ideologies, critical race theory, political discourse, discourse analysis, speaker role


Between January and March 2022, the South Carolina Education and Public Works Committee held a series of hearings to consider five bills that were introduced in the State House, all of which were seeking to restrict how race could be taught and discussed in schools. As similar “anti-CRT” bills were introduced in a majority of U.S. states, many ensuing political debates focused on disagreements over the meaning and usage of the term “critical race theory.” Proponents and opponents of the bills oriented to starkly different understandings of the definition of CRT, and they relied on different language ideologies to defend those understandings. In examining the relationship between language ideologies and political strategies in over 21 hours of public debates about anti-CRT bills, this project analyzes instances when interlocutors used the same term to invoke different meanings; both Republicans and Democrats treated CRT as a semiotic abbreviation (Slotta 2019), yet the speech chains invoked by this abbreviation were vastly different. For Republicans, CRT invoked an educational praxis aimed at accusing White students of racism; for Democrats, CRT referred to an advanced legal theory that had never been present in K-12 schools. This paper focuses on language ideologies used in instances of explicit definition, ultimately finding that these ideologies depended both on the political stance of the speaker (for or against the bills) and their political role (legislator or public testifier).




How to Cite

Pinkston, Paige. 2023. “Negotiating Communicative Imaginaries: Definitional Debates and Language Ideologies in a Critical Race Theory Hearing”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 8 (1): 5553.